Robert Skloot, professor emeritus of theatre and drama and Jewish studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will direct and perform in a staged reading of his one-act play “If the Whole Body Dies: Raphael Lemkin and the Treaty Against Genocide” at Allegheny College on Friday, Nov. 22. The performance, at 8 p.m. in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre, is free and open to the public. A discussion with the playwright will follow the performance.
A Friday lunch discussion with the playwright, sponsored by the college’s Center for Intercultural Advancement and Student Success, is also free and open to the public. The lunch will begin at noon in the Tillotson Room of the Tippie Alumni Center. Lunch is provided.
In addition to Skloot, the cast for “If the Whole Body Dies” includes Alexis Eldridge, Aviv Land, Philippa Panayiotou, Roberta Levine and Jim Sumerfield.
The one-act play, which grew out of 30 years of research that Skloot did on the Holocaust and theater, takes as its central character Raphael Lemkin, the real-life Polish-Jewish lawyer who coined the term “genocide.” Lemkin fled to the United States in 1941, two years after Nazi German forces invaded Poland. After the Holocaust, during which 49 members of his family were killed, Lemkin, who had no official government appointment, lobbied the newly created United Nations to adopt a treaty against genocide.
After years of ceaseless work, Lemkin’s mission was finally completed in 1951 when the U.N. ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which Lemkin wrote. Since its adoption, 142 countries have ratified the treaty.
Skloot calls Lemkin “one of the few crucial universal citizens.” One of the reasons he wrote the play, he says, is to bring attention to “a true citizen of the world” who died in 1959 in relative obscurity.
“If the Whole Body Dies” has been performed throughout the United States, in addition to Sarajevo and The Hague, among other locations. The play has been translated into Spanish, Polish, German and Hebrew.
The performance at Allegheny College is sponsored by the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, Hillel and the Department of Communication Arts/Theatre. In addition to the performance, Skloot will be meeting with classes and other groups of students and faculty. His visit to Allegheny is supported by the Samuel Schick lecture fund, which is made possible by a gift from the Barry and Florence Friedberg Family Philanthropic Fund.